Envision Success Stories
The Envision program benefits everyone involved, throughout all aspects of education. To share our excitement, we are pleased to present the following articles:
I am Marissa Krause, and I was fortunate enough to be a member of the first group of students to experience the Envision program. Envision was, without a doubt, one of the most beneficial programs that I was ever a part of throughout my entire educational career. As a student who was advanced in my education from an early age, it was very difficult for school activities to keep my attention and even more difficult for teachers to accommodate my needs. I spent my entire elementary career off on my own; doing research projects and tutoring fellow students- anything that my teachers could think of to attempt to push me to my limits. It wasn’t until the fifth grade however, that I feel I truly was met with teachers who could help me utilize my abilities to their fullest potentials.
Both Mrs. Bondy and Mrs. Rabideau made a special effort to help advanced students, like myself. As mentioned before, I was one of the first students to test run and in some cases establish the playing field for what Envision would become today. Our projects then were to plan a vacation on a budget, plan our college education, plan our careers, and plan where we would be post-education. Not only did these projects focus on our futures and force us to set expectations for ourselves, but they continue today to place young children in positions of authority over themselves. The importance of teaching people so young that they are in charge of their own lives is absolutely invaluable. It allows children to realize from a young age that: what they do matters, what they think matters, and most importantly that what they expect from themselves has no limits.
The Envision program taught me not only personal responsibility, but also to understand deadlines and to never settle for anything less than my personal best. The projects incorporated not only personal creativity, but also personal initiative. In the real world there are no teachers to remind people that they have deadlines to meet, and no teachers to remind them to always do their best. The independence of the Envision projects prepared me for the real world and my college experience better than any other aspect of my education. At the age of ten I was responsible for myself and my goals; no other program can offer this. From the time I finished my first project, to this day, I have remained a type-A perfectionist and I refuse to settle for anything less of myself.
Aside from the benefits Envision gave me in the fifth grade, it has continued to benefit me to this day. I graduated the fifth grade at the top of my class, and I graduated high school at the top of my class. I graduated high school a semester early and with more than a semester in college credits. I was valedictorian for the graduating class of 2009 from L’Anse Creuse High School, but unfortunately graduating early meant I had to forfeit my valedictorian title. I was accepted into the University of Detroit Mercy as an early registrant for pre-med on the highest academic scholarship available. I have never expected anything less than my personal best and I completely accredit that to this program.
Since my college career began I found that I prefer law over medicine, and have changed my major. I have produced legal power points that have blown even my college professors away and everyone can see the resemblance between my current projects and my Envision projects. I am maintaining an excellent GPA in college and still hold the university’s highest scholarship. Apart from my schooling I still love art and plan to pursue an associate’s degree in Fine Arts, because clearly I can’t be busy enough! Also, I have been doing a large amount of modeling work and will be touring with the North American International Show this 2010 and 2011 season representing the Chrysler brand.
I am now entering my junior year of college, a year ahead of everyone else my age, and I cannot emphasize enough how much of this must be credited to the Envision program. The goals I set for myself in primary school pushed me to reach even higher goals in college. The personal initiative I learned then enabled me to accomplish anything that I put my mind to. The responsibility that it taught me allows me to do everything I can think of and not have to make any sacrifices: I can still do everything to the ‘nth’ degree.”
Shuda enjoyed working on the Travel Passport project during fifth grade. While it was a fun project that allowed the imagination to wander, it also provided opportunities for the students to learn. As a parent, I saw this project as an important step for Shuda to start learning independent studies, and to seek advice when needed. I would also encourage parents to get involved and identify teaching moments. Several things stood out that I still remember now:
- We loved the flexibility the students enjoyed at a young age. Shuda made a little “twist” on the project; instead of her traveling, she planned to bring her favorite aunt to our hometown from China. It is important for creative minds to be rewarded, and that is what this project provided.
- The project was a good way for students to learn to conduct research, and, even more important, to learn how to organize the information they learned. For Shuda, it was a good exercise to learn that she would only use a portion of the information she gathered. The project was a good way to learn to organize information logically.
- Shuda learned when things looked complicated she need not ask parents to do it for her, but to ask if they knew better ways to do it. This included the budget. When she told me that if she changed a number, she had to do the whole set of numbers again, I told her she could put it on a spreadsheet. It took quite a bit of time to teach her how to use Excel, but it was a skill she acquired through this project that was very handy in her later projects at school. We also noticed that Shuda explored better ways to complete projects more conscientiously.
- As a student who loved art, Shuda had much fun drawing her own postcards, editing the photos, selecting boarders, matching colors and developing art pieces. Some of the things she did during this project extended to making bookmarks that she used to raise money for her school gifted program.
Later in the semester her teacher, Mrs. Hetherton, offered the Career Aspiration project to the students. Although the students did not have time to do a full project presentation like the Travel Passport project, Shuda did have a great time with it. She e-mail interviewed and had great communications with the president of a professional association for forensic pathology. This is an area of study in which Shuda may still have an interest. Since then, Princeton has been her goal for higher education, for both its academic reputation and its good softball team, because they won the 2008 Ivy League Championship.
Overall, we feel the Envision projects offered the more advanced students challenges that required the students be better thinkers. The projects also brought student knowledge to a higher level of applications, while allowing students to demonstrate their individuality and areas of strong interest and pursuit. Creative minds need stimulation to grow. Envision projects offer the stimulation that is appreciated by young students and their parents.”
I love using the Envision program with my 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade gifted students! I have been using Envision units with my students ever since the first volume (5th grade) came out in 2007. I really enjoy how user-friendly the materials are. All I need to do as a teacher is copy the necessary pages for my students and then my job is to serve as a facilitator while they work independently.
The units are packed with applications of real-world skills; some of the most important include researching, word processing, and organization. At the end of each project, students prepare a display board for a project expo, at which time they share what they have learned with others. By this point, students are proud of all of the effort they have put into their projects, and parents are amazed at how much they have learned.
I plan to continue using Envision units with my students for years, and can’t wait for the 1st and 2nd grade programs to be released!
Virginia C. Stephens, Ed.D.
Lead Gifted Teacher, Columbia County Schools
Gifted Teacher, River Ridge Elementary
Two of our campuses used Envision, both at the 5th grade level (one campus used one unit with 6th also). They held showcases of the student work and there were some great final products. Even those that weren’t quite as polished as some still showed that they had worked through all steps of the research process and had a great learning experience. Many more of our teachers plan on using it this year. Both of the campuses that used it this year shared final products at a session at our district leadership conference and at our summer gifted PLC meeting. Seeing the final products and hearing from the teachers how they worked through the process really inspired the others.
I was really proud of one teacher who used Envision – she is a good teacher, who normally likes her classroom to be very orderly and tends to be reluctant to let go of some of the control. When I walked into her room in the midst of students working on Envision, there was a totally different atmosphere – kids and materials were everywhere with each student engaged and working on many different aspects of the project. Both the teacher and the students were having fun! It was great to see this experienced teacher, who is a wonderful teacher, step out of her comfort zone, take a risk, and continue to grow as a professional. She is an even better teacher now!
I hope your business is thriving – I know we like your product!”
Coordinator of Advanced Academics
AVID District Director